As President Joe Biden’s administration continues its full-throated push to impose new, highly restrictive regulations in Gulf Coast waters as part of its effort to protect an estimated 51 newly discovered whales, the Florida Ports Council, our industry partners, elected leaders and state agencies have officially submitted comments to the National Marine Fisheries Services (NMFS) opposing the proposed critical habitat designation.
As you’ll recall, the proposed critical habitat would cover a large swath of the Gulf of Mexico, interfering with a number of key shipping lanes for the United States, and more specifically, shipping lanes near Port Tampa Bay, SeaPort Manatee, Port Panama City and the Port of Pensacola. These shipping lanes are vital not only to the region, but to agricultural producers shipping their products, to energy producers shipping energy cargo that fuels the state of Florida, essential medical supplies, and so much more.
This proposed rule comes at the same time that the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and NMFS are considering a pending petition to establish vessel restrictions that would eliminate nighttime shipping traffic to Florida’s four Gulf Coast seaports, and impose $20,000 fines for ships and boats that exceed speeds of about 11 MPH during daytime hours.
You’ll find our public comments to NMFS here. Special thanks to the Florida Department of Transportation, Florida Fish and Wildlife Service, the AAPA, and U.S. Senator Rick Scott for submitting comments as well. I know several of our local ports submitted comments, and we are very thankful.
Additionally, we’re seeing many engage on this issue more broadly.
Representative Danny Alvarez, in an editorial that published in recent days, says that NOAA’s proposed rules “smell fishy.”
“It’s difficult for me to see how potentially jeopardizing Florida’s public safety, our nation’s security, and Florida’s economy will be friendly to our state’s environment. In fact, I’d go so far as to say it appears to be more about politics than protecting a ‘new’ whale – a whale that no third-party organization has verified as a new species,” Rep. Alvarez wrote.
And Engineering Florida, an engineering industry magazine, just published an in-depth article highlighting the economic successes of Florida’s seaports, and focusing on how the Biden Administrations new rules place a bullseye target on this success.
We continue to have conversations with elected leaders in Tallahassee and Washington, D.C., and continue advocating on behalf of Florida’s 16 seaports. Florida’s ports are simply too important to be targeted with extreme, unnecessary new regulations.